Recording phone conversations with Skype

Phone calls can be easily recorded if you conduct your phone interviews via Skype. There is a series of add-ons and programs which allow you to record phone conversations as well as conversations with other Skype users. You’ll find a commented list of Skype recorders  here.
This guide will introduce you to the free “Mp3 Skype Recorder”, which – as the name suggests – saves your conversations as mp3 files. If you want to try out different programs: The guys from have created two excellent German video tutorials on using two other recorders, “wiretap” & “callgraph”. The tutorials are available  here.

What you need

  • Skype. Skype is free, and it is free to call other Skype users. If you want to call phones from your computer, you need to buy calling credit from Skype.
  • A microphone & headphones (or a headset). I do not recommend using speakers, because they sometimes create annoying feedback. (If you interview other Skype users, you should make sure your interview partners have a microphone & headphones as well…)
  • “Mp3 Skype Recorder” (free), download  here.

Installing and setting up the recorder

Download the recorder and install it on your computer. Start the recorder, and then start Skype. During the very first startup, Skype will ask you whether you want to allow the recorder to connect with Skype – click on “yes” at this point. Depending on your firewall settings, a warning might pop up, informing you that the recorder is trying to access Skype. You will have to allow this; otherwise, the recorder will not be able to record your calls.

If you want to change the recorder’s access to Skype at a later point: You can manage the access of external programs in Skype under Tools -> Options -> “Advanced” tab -> “manage other program’s access to Skype”.

Recorder options

To record a Skype phone call or a conversation with another Skype user, Skype as well as the recorder have to run.

The recorder functions are pretty straightforward: You can change the bitrate of the recording, and you can choose whether you want to record mono, stereo (caller on one channel, called person on the other) or joint stereo. Furthermore you can specify if the program should start on Windows startup, and you can change the folder in which the program stores your conversations. The conversations will be saved as mp3-files.

How to record

The recorder can be set up to start a recording as soon as your conversation partner picks up (I strongly discourage this, because it might lead to accidental recordings without the interviewee’s prior consent; refer to the Belmont Report for ethical guidelines). If the recording button has no square around (click on the recording button prior to the Skype conversation), the recording will automatically start as soon as the next Skype conversation starts (note that the recorder is not recording prior to the call).

If the recording button doesn’t have a square surrounding it, the recording will NOT start on start of the conversation – you can start it manually whenever you want to during the conversation. If the player is set up like this and not recording, you will see a red bar on the bottom of the recorder with the message “recording off”.

Every time a recording is started, this window will pop up for a short time, indicating that you are actually recording:

The recordings will stop either when you push the stop button or when you hang up your call. The file will then be automatically saved – another pop-up window will inform you of that. The file will be saved in the location that is shown on the player.

Before calling your interview partners, you should do some test calls in order to get acquainted with the controls, and to make sure the quality is alright.

Thumbnail image via flickr creative commons by Maryam (one bored chica); image sharpness and color hues were changed.